Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Holds Hearing on Wildfire, Access Legislation

Last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on S. 3427, the Modernizing Access to Our Public Land (MAPLand) Act, and S. 4431, the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act of 2020.

Prior to the hearing, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) sent an alert as well as two letters to the Committee highlighting the support of the sporting-conservation community for the MAPLand Act and the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act

The MAPLand Act is an innovative piece of bipartisan legislation that seeks to modernize our nation’s public land mapping system by requiring the Sectaries of Agriculture, Army, and the Interior to digitize public easements, rights-of-way, and other key access points for America’s hunters, anglers and other public land users. Digital mapping and GPS technologies have revolutionized the ways in which sportsmen and women navigate public lands.

Unfortunately, incomplete and inconsistent mapping data prevents hunters and anglers, as well as land management agencies, from fully utilizing the benefits of these technologies. For example, one field office may have each easement and right-of-way uploaded to a computer file, while a field office in another location may only have paper documentation of the easement. This is problematic as the easements and rights-of-way could be lost in perpetuity if proper documentation is lost or destroyed, which can be addressed, in part, by the MAPLAND Act.

The Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act will help address federal forest management challenges by increasing the scale, pace, and efficiency of implementing forest management and restoration projects. Providing federal forest managers with additional statutory guidance and clarifying judicial standards of review will ensure that projects are implemented in a timely manner to have an impact now, when they are needed, not years down the road. 

Both of these bills await to receive a legislative markup in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee before they can be considered on the Senate floor. While a companion bill of the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act has not yet been introduced in the House, CSF is working to secure a hearing for the House companion of the MAPLand Act.

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